Op-Ed: Calling Bullsh!t

Avalanche video perpetuates skiing’s snow-safety problem

Avalanches are not glamorous. Getting caught in one does not make you cool. Most often, it just makes you cold and dead and then shatters the lives of all the people around you.

You’d think that after all the heartbreak skiers have sustained in recent years, and all the attention given to the tragic outcome of avalanches, that we’d finally arrived to a point where the glorification of avalanches was a thing of the past.

Apparently, that’s not the case. This week, a video is going around the web showing Spanish skier Aymar Navarro triggering a massive avalanche, trying to outrun it before he gets consumed in its path, then deploying his airbag backpack. He survives, shakes off the snow, then, as seen through his helmet cam, he climbs back aboard the helicopter. It’s as if nothing ever happened and he’s ready to take another run.

Read Nature’s Feedback: Why Are So Many of the Best Skiers Dying?

There are, of course, many videos showing how airbags can help skiers survive an avalanche. The ugly difference in this video is the prominent nature of the ABS logo, the editing to specifically showcase the ABS pack (including showing Aymar readying the pack’s trigger mechanism before skiing), the dramatic music, and the fact there is nothing in terms of messaging about decision-making or avalanche safety. Rather, the message appears to be that all you need to survive an avalanche is to wear an ABS backpack. It’s hard to tell if this is indeed an ad since there are no credits or attribution, which makes it even more egregious because that would imply someone somewhere knew enough not to put their name on it, but not enough to shelve it. Some people have even suggested that the entire thing was staged just to generate publicity for ABS. Turns out that the footage came from a car commercial in the Spanish Pyrenees. One can only assume that after the accident, ABS pounced on the clip and edited it to dramatic effect to promote their product.

Avie_use

There is another video where Aymar describes the incident, saying that the sun broke through after a week of storms and 12 feet of new snow, with another foot of fresh overnight. He says they evaluated three slopes and tried to minimize the risk yet didn’t expect what happened. That tiny bit of avalanche awareness (and that’s being generous) is followed by a much larger plug for his airbag.

Of course, airbags are a useful tool when traveling in the backcountry and they have saved lives. But there is no guarantee. To throw this caution to the wind is irresponsible and dangerous to anyone who explores the backcountry, especially to young skiers who are full of bravado but short on experience.

Aside from promoting a false sense of security, this “ad” also perpetuates the ski industry’s serious problem of having a lack of accountability. Sales of backcountry equipment have soared in recent years as more people ski beyond the gates. So while the industry enjoys these profits, their customers head into hazardous terrain believing that their equipment alone will save them. It’s beyond time that we hold up our end of the deal by recognizing that avalanches are very real, very dangerous, and that avoiding them requires more than just gear.

Find out why the term “sidecountry” is so dangerous.

Last winter, the American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education (AIARE) launched a campaign called Project Zero. The intent was to build a unified safety message within the ski industry with the goal of reducing avalanche fatalities from the current average of 30 per year, to zero. This ABS video is the perfect example of why this message is needed, and how it could be utilized. But despite enthusiastic interest from the industry last winter, says Tom Murphy, AIARE’s operations director, the campaign has since slowed because it lacks the proper funding.

“The industry at large realized that it would behoove them to come together and do something about avalanche safety,” Murphy said Thursday. “It recognized the uptick in sales and the correlating uptick in backcountry accidents. We know that this is likely not going to go away. So while they realized this conundrum, it’s gonna take some money to put this together. That hasn’t been forthcoming.”

Instead, we have exciting video footage showing professional athletes escaping avalanches using only their airbag. And zero message about how to avoid avalanches in the first place.

Not that cool.

Add a comment

  • zoochy

    While
    we are criticizing this video, may I add that when a slab fractures and
    releases all around you, your first instinct should be get to the side of the
    slide, not to try and outrun it. The
    skier had a perfect opportunity to exit right into the rocks but instead
    decided to try and get in front of the slide.
    Yes, this may make for exciting footage but is yet another example of
    how the ski film industry is irresponsible when it comes to promoting avalanche
    safety.

    • Aymar Navarro

      Is very easy to see from the screen of your computer.
      You think that if I had seen had followed other way down …..

      It’s different from a Heli vision to reality from the skis….

      • guest

        You should have an escape route in mind, and verbalize it with your team, BEFORE skiing the line. This is taught in basic avalanche classes.

    • oldcrustyskier

      Assumption based on one angle of video. All kinds of assumptions flying around here.

  • PowderMagReader

    “Apparently,” “One can only assume,” “It’s hard to tell,” “Some people suggested.”

    Come on, Matt. You’re an editor – pick up the damn phone and figure out the facts of the story. That’s your job. Did you call ABS to ask about their intentions with the video? Did you talk to the athlete in the video to get their take on the event? What about the production crew that filmed the avalanche? Or the editor who put the video together?

    No, you didn’t talk to any of them. Instead you invented conclusions in order to support some sort of rah-rah knee jerk pro-avalanche-awareness rally call, blowing off steam by pointing the finger at ABS, which you just knew would garner a zillion likes on Facebook.

    You bring no solutions, present zero facts, and offer up only weak conjecture.

    So I’m calling BS on you, Matt Hansen. Maybe the problem here is that those with sufficient influence – like an Editor for Powder Magazine – would rather write lazy and factless click-bait articles than do any real journalistic investigation.

    • Parker

      Here here!

      • nca777

        now that was a good read.

    • Dave Flager

      Calling bullshit on your comment. Ever heard of an opinion piece? Look it up before you climb up on your horse.

      • PowderMagReader

        Op-Ed’s don’t absolve authors of basic, stand journalistic ethic or integrity. And that’s the bottom line.

        • David

          It was clear to me when I read the article what the author was assuming and what they were not. Much more so than in a typical newspaper op-ed.

        • Dave Flager

          Listen up corporate shill, the exact point of opinion is to not call every tom, dick and harry that was involved and get their spin. So you can stop pretending like you have a clue by throwing around the words journalism and ethics. And that is the real bottom line.

        • Rogge

          Who are you, PowderMagReader? Do you have any idea who Matt Hansen is and the kind of journalistic gold and award-winning stories he’s penned for The Skier’s Magazine over the last decade? You have the guy from ABS agreeing with Matt’s Op-Ed. You seem like you’re just out to pick a fight on the internet for the sake of picking a fight in the Internet.

    • einsteinstoe

      “12 feet. of snow, and another foot over night” and they didn’t “expect” what happened? No need to invent some conclusion on this one. It is clear as the blue-bird sky they chose to ski under, whether on purpose or out of ignorance, they were asking for it. I too conclude, poor form by all involved in this video, as breath taking as it may be.

    • Hansen

      Emails were sent to both ABS and the marketing agency that gave us the video, which was sent to us on Monday. We opted not to post it at the time due to what we saw as an irresponsible message. It wasn’t until after we saw the video being posted all over the web that we felt compelled to respond to it publicly. So far, neither ABS nor the marketing agency has responded to our inquiry.

      • Scott McGuire

        Matt, I sent you an email response yesterday at 4pm. Not sure where claims of no resold e from ABS come from as we did respond to your inquiry right away.

      • PowderMagReader

        So you sent two emails four days ago, didn’t hear back, and decided that in spite of your lack of evidence, you would go ahead and publicly put ABS on blast and run your mouth anyway. Why?

        You talk about the ski industry lacking accountability, yet you as a powerful influence on ski culture don’t bother yourself with the chore of being accountable to your own readers.

        You’re not just a distant observer here, you’re a power for change within this very small industry. People listen to what the magazines say. So either step up and do it right or get out of the way and let someone else take charge. Because more bitching and moaning like the article above isn’t helping anyone.

        • LovelandInsider

          Are you retarded? Or just plain dumb? Cause seems to me they are being accountable and using the power of media to put the message out there to aspiring backcountry users to GET EDUCATED, and to learn about proper backcountry travel techniques before even considering whether or not an airbag is suitable for your level of risk tolerance.

          Either you’re an ABS clean up boy, or completely clueless about how to ski backcountry for more than one season without killing yourself. Please, go cunt up some other website like FUX news or something. Turd.

      • Lee Lau

        Thanks for the clarification Matt. It was clear to this reader what you assumed and what was your opinion. Obviously others like “PowderMagReader” would prefer to assume the worst of your intention but that is the power of diversity of opinion

    • LovelandInsider

      So you’re saying we shouldn’t promote avalanche safety and awareness as being more important that a bag? Given the choice between the two, I’d rather spend the $650-$800+ on education and learn how to properly evaluate snow and travel safely in the backcountry. The big kicker in all of this is heuristics, or the human factor. That is the biggest variable of all. To be able to remain humble, to be able to say ‘not today’, to be able to walk away takes more courage and strength in my opinion that readying your airbag and crossing your fingers.

    • maitlandte

      The editor doesn’t need to call up ABS for clarification of their motives. It is an opinion piece on a video that has been put out into the public domain. The video has been watched by loads of people and needs to be scrutinised. The editor is commenting on the effect the video has on how skiers approach skiing off-piste. The video appears to promote ABS as the no.1 reason why Aymar survives. There is no comment on other precautionary measures. The music and cinematography help sensationalise the prospect of irresponsible off-piste skiing with the help of only an ABS pack. It is worrying that this video has been watched by millions of people across the web, as it does nothing to promote proper intelligent awareness for a dangerous aspect of the sport. In fact in my opinion it does the exact opposite.

      • chim richalds

        the airbag, to be fair, is likely the only reason he survived, as he was partially buried even with it inflated. if he hadn’t been shuffled to the top of the debris, he would’ve likely been swept into that insane terrain trap at the bottom of that stupid run and buried under many meters of snow. he, and the guide company, didn’t take one other precautionary measure in this silly accident, and he is very lucky to be alive.

        • oldcrustyskier

          Nice assumption with no possible way of knowing.

          • smolgarf

            um, the incident, and the silly run with the mega terrain trap at the bottom, are on video. and the events leading up to the accident are in the description.

  • Doug Phillips

    I take both sides. Continue to push for more awareness but you cannot fault companies for developing lifesaving products and promoting them.

    I first went BC in the early 90s and at A Basin back then going SC was the exception rather than the norm for many shredders. We went regularly with no beacons, probes or shovels. We only assumed high alpine was dangerous. And all the guys I went with are lucky nothing really bad except burials up to our chests happened. Looking back now it was all just ignorant and I get chills sometimes thinking about how dumb we were sometimes.

    That being said – one point to consider about why the piece was written is this.

    If I put myself at that age and stage in my life today I give too much credit to the ABS or Avalung on my back and put myself into situations b/c a false sense of perceived safety. That is the truth and – too me – that is where Matt and a lot of very experience BC professionals are coming from. There will never be any substitute for reading conditions and having the balls to downclimb.

    • Skiskiski

      I do have to point out that ‘sidecountry’, or ‘SC’ as you called it, is becoming a dirty word in many parts of the industry, and IMO that is a good thing. It is either backcountry, or it isn’t.

      It started out as marketing lingo to define new categories that were trending at around the same time. It’s just a small piece indicative of the larger topic at hand.

      Nice post. We are always learning.

      • Doug Phillips

        Agree and good point bud. I am stuck with the term just like I still say “right on”. It is backcountry if it is not patrolled – period.

        Back during those times we went to a closed ski area one day and in what used to be “in-bounds” and below tree line I saw my friend get taken in the biggest slide I ever saw and he is lucky he surfed it good and settled with his head barely up. His dogs found him first. We never would have thought to call that backcountry if you know what I mean.

  • Jon Pitts

    I’m lucky enough to work as a risk management consultant in the Information Security field. Best practice is this field typically revolves around the concept of “layered security” or “defense in depth”. This approach can be applied across time (prevent, prepare, detect, and respond to a threat) and space (across files, servers, networks, etc.). Relatively speaking it is vastly more effective approach than point solutions.

    I agree completely that the ski industry and outdoor community would benefit greatly from this approach and a coordinated security awareness campaign would go a long way. thanks for the information regarding Project Zero, it would be great if we could get it moving.

  • Aymar Navarro

    Hi guys, my name is Aymar Navarro and i’m the rider of the avalanche footage! The edition of this video is like it is because in theory this run had to be for a TV commercial and it ended up being a nightmare even though nothing happened to me. It suck to read derogatory comments my only intention with this edit was to try to give a little bit of consciousness to everyone of the risk that exists in the mountain. In this sport there are some risks that we never want them to happen, but sometimes even if we try to minimize the risk as much as possible, they do!! The risk exists as well as the accidents!! We must be cautious in the mountain, at the end she has the last word.

    • Doug Phillips

      Well said. Don’t take the comments too seriously bro.

    • Skiskiski

      Sure. Blame the woman.

    • disqus_Wses9RmDUK

      Aymar, first of all I appreciate that you make an effort to respond. Secondly, I think you’re a great skier; I was really impressed by your winning edit in the Kuga Riders Cup. Furthermore, I fully understand that you were eager to advance your career as a professional skier through the Ford Kuga commercial. Finally, I even understand that you were willing to take a substantial risk to ski on that mountain under the circumstances of that day. (In the interview recorded prior to boarding the helicopter that day, which was broadcasted in episode 9 of Mitele’s ‘El Plan Perfecto’, you gave me the impression that you were well aware of the risk you were about to take.)

      However, what I do not understand is that you and the Bumpy Films crew continued filming after you recorded the run that eventually ended up in the Ford commercial in which you were nearly caught in an avalanche.

      Why didn’t you call it a day after that happened? And, Mr. McGuire, why didn’t ABS mention that near miss at all?

      • Scott McGuire

        I can assure you that we are now well versed in the missed opportunities to tell this story better. I don’t think anyone expected close to 200,000 views in a week and the proceeding debate. There is a part of me that would advocate for pulling the film and re-editing it to include the proper history and elements around avalanche education. In the interim however, we are having a very good dialogue on corporate responsibility, avalanche awareness and a post-mortem on the event on this forum and others.

        Like any accident, I think a lot of time is spent after the fact questioning why weren’t things done differently. Why not ski right? Why not call it quits? Why assume you can get another good day on sketchy conditions?

        For all of us that ride, how many times have we wondered if we got lucky or been “unlucky” and wondered what we would do different? It’s easy to assume that the person that made the slip, the error in judgement is just arrogant and disrespectful of nature when you are not there. It’s quite another to go through the face to palm moment yourself and reflect on what made the outcome positive and what you would do different. All any of us can do is to be open to learning and to being better and more aware next time.

        • disqus_Wses9RmDUK

          Thanks for your response. I’m pleased to read that ABS recognises that a lot can be learnt from this case in terms of corporate communication. I also welcome the discussion on avalanche awareness and corporate responsibility which your campaign has triggered off.

          With respect to corporate responsibility, I think in this case it is very relevant to question why things weren’t done differently for the following reason: whereas most backcountry ski descents are planned while minimising avalanche risks, I suspect that in this case the aim was to film a spectacular avalanche near miss. Initially my suspicion was based only on the obvious sketchy conditions of which the mountain guide, the film crew and the skier were well aware. However, my suspicion was strengthened when I found out about the near miss in the Ford commercial, which was certainly recorded on the same mountain and almost certainly on the same day as the video in Mr. Hansen’s article. In order to challenge my assumptions I asked Mr. Navarro why they continued filming after the near miss. Assuming that ABS knew about the near miss and the Ford commercial I asked you why ABS did not mention it.

          Although I understand that ABS is not responsible for making the video, I believe that as an authoritative actor in the field of avalanche safety ABS has the responsibility to not only stress the importance of avalanche awareness but to pinpoint the poor decisions made in this case.
          According its company philosophy “The ABS Peter Aschauer GmbH is a (…) company dedicated to avalanche safety”, so if ABS lives up to that philosophy it shows how the safety of Mr. Navarro was compromised, even if that hurts the interests of those who were involved in the decision making process, i.e. the client (Ford Spain), the advertising agency (Wunderman Madrid), the film production company (Bumpy Films), the mountain guide and Mr. Navarro himself.

          Only by thoroughly analysing the decision making process ABS can maximise its contribution to avalanche safety through this case and justify the use of the video in its own advertising campaign.

          • Shiddarta

            disqus_Wses9RmDUK,
            Don’t think that ABS has enough with his investment and development in new technology to make this world a better world.
            Is a technology that has allowed humans to go a step further, and as well they explained to you both the Rider and the Brand Manager of ABS, its intention is not to kick it to learning and education in the mountains, but that it is up to each one.
            It is also very rare that you have as much information about the production of this video, and want to lash out at those who have produced, I think you have a personal interest and so are you so bent on doing bad publicity.
            Let people be free to make their own decisions.
            Thank you.

          • disqus_Wses9RmDUK

            Please let me be clear about my intentions. I have no professional position in the ski industry and I have no ties whatsoever to competitors of ABS or rivals of any of the companies involved in making the video. I am not even a journalist. I’m just a ski enthusiast with an interest in avalanche safety.

            What drives me is my desire to know the truth behind this remarkable video, which was hidden from the public for eight months and is now the focal point of ABS’s campaign. I decided to dig a little deeper than the surface because ski media including Powder Magazine appear to fail to do so.
            All of the information I have can be found by anyone with basic web search skills and elementary knowledge of Spanish (and perhaps some other Western European languages) and a little perseverance. I suggest you give it a try yourself before scapegoating me any further.

    • Lee Lau

      Aymar – thanks for posting. Hope you are not too mentally shaken up by the near death. That was a crazy time to ski such an aggressive slope but everybody has different tolerance for risk. Good luck to you

    • Ken Lord

      I appreciate the response, but, looking at the conditions even before you went, it looked like the avy risk was pretty high? I’m curious how you went about evaluating the risk, exit strategies, and ultimately deciding it was worth it to go?

    • JF

      Glad you are okay.

  • skipatrolguy

    Aymar, your last sentence says it all. The ABS makers are motivated by trying to keep people alive in avalanches, and trying to make a profit. You have to wonder which is more important to them. Still, your brain is your greatest tool for keeping you safe in avalanche terrain.

  • First time powmag reader

    This needed to be written. Good work.

  • Scott McGuire

    I am going to be the unlikely defendant of Matt’s piece and opinion. As Brand Manager for ABS in the Americas. Matt did reach out to ABS, but our response either came late or was not included in his piece for other reasons. Matt is absolutely correct that airbags are a useful tool but certainly no magic device that means everything else can be put aside. Our very first comment on the You Tube video speaks to the need for education and awareness first and foremost. We certainly have no intent or desire to communicate that airbags are a way to bypass good knowledge.

    There has been a fair amount of criticism of ABS that has surfaced and the assumption that we created this video to simply sell airbags and tell everyone it is a single solution to avalanche danger. Nothing could be farther from the truth. We believe firmly in avalanche education and support educators, avalanche centers and consumer engagement programs around the world. Ideally no one ever uses our product.

    If nothing else comes out of this, we are all starting the season with a very robust debate about avalanche danger, the attitudes that safety can be implied by a purchase of gear and that the industry glorifies unsafe actions. If nothing else come of this, I hope to see AIARE courses sold out and a continuing conversation around safety. In the end, that is our only goal; to help people survive when things go wrong. We have heard passionate voices from people that have felt their ABS pack contributed to their survival, just as we have heard stories of people successfully using a transceiver. We believe sharing these stories is positive as it encourages both conversation and consideration in investing in safety equipment.

    I am glad to see that Aymar has responded and people have accepted or at least been respectful of his commentary.

    Best,

    Scott

    • Rick

      Bravo well said…It’s no wonder your the Brand Mgr. :)

    • Gina Van Der Werf

      Hey Scott, wouldn’t it be great if ABS would make enough profit to sponsor free basic level avy awareness training for any newbie who buys an ABS airbag :)

  • jonathan__c

    I find it awfully silly that everyone is focused on bickering over semantics and playing the blame game, but Matt raises a very valid point that transcends the bullshit surrounding the video… more people are going into the backcountry than ever by an exponential factor, and the most important thing that needs to happen is more awareness, more training, and more critical thinking. Lets focus on that shall we?

  • Nicholas Georgakopoulos

    I understand the point of the piece that viewers might under appreciate avalanche safety, but the guy looked so fried when the entire slope started coming down on him. I do not feel that the airbag made his survival even likely and having an airbag would not lead me to want to take the chance of such a cataclysmic avalanche. He is lucky to have survived, as he admits, but that also speaks volumes for the airbag. Without the ABS his chances of survival might have been near zero and with it they went up a lot. Maybe only to 25%, maybe to 60%, and that is enought to make ABS worth it for everyone in such a setting. Still, no sane person would take the chance of triggering such an avalanche.

  • Chudini Zaczynsky

    Before I started the movie few days ago I counted that ABS teach me how to avoid avalanches – so I never had to use their product and find myslef in one of risk situations. Instead, I saw a foolhardy product placement and zero education.

  • ptor

    hello,hello,h-h-h-h-helicopter? it seems to be mostly heli-skiing from where we get the fabulous footage of near misses and cavalier conditions attitudes. heli is too easy access for those hungry for some glory. “knowing the risks” in your twenties all sponsored up like that? who was guiding that day and let him get out of the heli? lot’s of damage control going on here.
    right on matt for firing everybody up about this kind of stuff!

    • Lynx

      Absolutely, who was the guide? Would love to hear why he let the poor kid risk his life like this.

  • Bret Shandro

    What about placing the responsibility on the consumer? Is it ´cool´ to blame a transceiver manufacturer for leading people into avalanche terrain?

  • Fire

    As someone who was shocked when I first watched the video, I think this is a great discussion! I am also an ABS user.

    My view is that all the emails, risk assessments, after comments from ABS etc that sit behind the video are irrelevant. This is about branding and marketing. It’s about first impressions when you watch the video and I’m afraid ABS, you have made a poor decision to edit and release this the way you did. It sends a very wrong message from a company that should be a leading advocate of safe mountain travel.

    The imagery clearly gives the impression that it is fine to go jump on what is obviously dodgy terrain so long as you have one of your packs on your pack (I love the zoom into the skier checking the handle is ready to pull!) The message that you might have ‘wanted’ to convey and the message you ‘actually’ conveyed are very different.

    As an aside, what always gets to me with videos like this is the fact that there’s a heli buzzing around with fully trained rescuers in it. Funnily enough I don’t have that when I’m in the backcountry so I tend not to ski slopes with 12 feet of new snow on then and a further foot of fresh as I would consider it highly irresponsible…

  • D Scott Mountain Guide

    While I agree with most of the above article I find it interesting that this is coming from a powder magazine writer…Powder magazine has done more than most in glorifying “extreme skiing” By this I mean , big radical back-country lines that only one in a million skiers will ever get close to. Of course this doesnt stop everyday, usually young, skiers from trying to do similar stuff closer to home ( usually in a less than perfect snowpack…) Dont get me wrong, in the end we are all responsible for our own decisions of where and when to ski.However, I have seen many, many images in Powder of skiers in very hazardous avalanche terrain with no discussion of the decision making process it took to end up on a particular slope.
    D Scott, Mountain Guide BC Canada

    • Shiddarta

      D Scott,
      As you say, there are millions of videos with Avalanches of magnificent riders and has never arisen decision making, here it is clear that there are other interests to make bad publicity who has cast this video.

  • Matt McClain

    Props
    should be given to Powder for at least raising the question. I
    remember ten or so years ago when Powder Mag was the one who ended the
    one-upmanship that had pushed cliff jumping into a realm of
    ridiculousness. Powder Mag understands their role as influencer within our community and i’m glad to see them use it.

    I
    am also glad to see Scott McGuire answer back with a thoughtful and
    candid response. I believe that ABS, along with other companies that
    are making similar safety equipment, are earnest in their hope that
    their products never have to be used – but perform as intended if called
    upon to do so. For me it’s like health, auto, fire insurance… I’m
    glad I have it if I need it, but I would much rather not have to use it.

    It’s
    good that we have these dialogs – but we should have them with the
    understanding that we are all seeking the same outcome: a reduction or
    elimination of avalanche deaths.

  • C Janzen

    It seems to me that the this is exactly the kind of incident where an airbag would be useful and I have severe doubts about several of the comments in the editorial piece from Matt (Powder) above. I have never met or worked with a skier who has taken a ride like this and then just continued as if nothing has happened; none of the pro skiers I know or have worked with take avalanches lightly even though their exposure to avalanches and severe consequenses is higher than many skiers; the mountain safety crews on shoots like these always do their best to minimize these events but can make mistakes; and the safety teams response time in the video is very good.

    I think this video makes the avalanche look very serious and the skier is very fortunate not to be hurt and to be able to climb into the helicopter and fly away.

    For me the video also highlights the importance of the skier being aware enough/capable enough to try and get to the edge of the slide imediately after the slope fractures and this likely increases his survival chances. He is also wearing a helmet, an airbag, being watched from a safe location (heli) and sking the slope one at a time.

    I think the beautiful photos published every day by magazines and on the web of skiers in this type of terrain without an avalanche incident do much more to encourage people to enter this terrain ill prepared than a video like this that shows the power of an avalanche, the difficulty escaping a slide, the need for a rescue team, and the benifits of wearing the appropriate equipment. Maybe they don’t spell all that out in the video but to me it seems to be the larger message presented here. The more education/information that can get out to people entering avalanche terrain in winter the better, hopefully there is a reduction in the number of avalanche deaths. For me I would probably use this video as an example of a number of things being done right, and a lesson in riding big terrain after a big snowfall.

    • Heidi Pesterfield

      The author has a right to say what he wants in his op (opinion) ed (editorial) piece. This piece is not a news or feature article in which a journalist has the responsibility to present all sides of an issue. Op eds provide staff writers a place to state OPINIONS.

      As a fellow journalist I commend him on the piece. Also, I agree with his sentiments, even after reading the additional information posted here. I probably couldn’t be swayed anyway; my mistrust of the ideologies of this company started long before that video began circulating.

      Our local mountaineering store hosted a free avalanche safety presentation by an ABS representative, and it was pathetic. The slides were such poor quality–I could barely make out whatever the intended “education” was supposed to be. It was a mess. The presenter’s cavalier attitude didn’t help. It was a real disservice to all the young folks that showed up that night to learn something. The presentation spoke volumes.

      • Heidi Pesterfield

        FYI, my comment was just a general comment, not specifically intended for C. Janzen.

  • Ken Lord

    The best way to survive an avalanche is to not be in it. If you’re not gonna use your brains, all the gear in the world (ABS/Avalung/Recco/Transceivers) can’t make up for it.

  • Austin P

    Great video! Thanks for posting and be safe.

  • Tino_11

    I don’t get the entire discussion to be honest. You can find any side of an argument on the Internet. The video is neither irresponsible or ethically wrong. If anyone bases thier decisions on one source of information then good luck to them. I’m a risk manager in the medical industry, I’ve spent every working day for twenty years considering the patient. However the risk I take myself is my business and I should be allowed to do so. I ride BC alone a lot, I wear a bag. I know I could die. I’ve justified it. It’s not the industries responsibility to make us risk aware it’s ours. Whoever doesn’t believe that is taking the biggest risk of all.

    • cindy

      What about the risk to the other individuals who go out to look for your solo buried ass..either to try and save u or retrieve your body? How is that risk-management? Your decisions on how to live and take risks on YOUR life DOES impact others. The morning of your loss by your survived loved ones???? Your parents who brought u into this world? Your kids? Your lover and best friends? By all means u just keep heading out into the bc by yourself because…yup…its your life and u make the calls . Risk assumption my ass. Its really just plain dumb and a death wish! Never mind putting other innocent lives in danger to save u.

  • JF

    Better clean your own yard before you start admonishing others for glorifying such risks.

  • MaroInCo

    This article is like the pot calling the kettle black.

    Considering the current issue of Powder has a photo of a guy skiing off the roof of a building on its cover, without any discussion on safety in the photo caption, or elsewhere in the magazine.

    It’s just a bit hypocritical in my opinion. powder has always glamorized high risk skiing, and I don’t recall any print issues dedicated to safety. The reason, because safety isn’t interesting and it won’t move product, not without being stylized. powder knows this and ABS knows this. So to have one “calling out” the other seems strange. Perhaps there is something going on behind the scenes here that I am not aware of.

    -Front Range Ski Patroller

  • Stephen Hinman

    Why Bullshit? You push a magazine that glorifies big mountain skiing… and that my friend has risk. Do you think Aymar and whoever was working with him forecasting/guiding didn’t do their legwork/homework? I seriously doubt it…but I dont know and neither do you…so as an editor of a magazine it seems kind of hypocritical to call out another company…You both profit off people skiing. I am not a huge fan of ABS and dont own one..(I have a Snowpulse).
    I have been involved in big mountain slides and airbags and I think a better angle would have been to explore the deployment and if it helped or potentially took Aymar further downhill? Dont use your power to slam…not cool.

  • Lucie Byron

    Blimey this article is a touch misleading “he jumps back on the helicopter as if he’s ready to take another run” what is he supposed to do in your opinion, walk out? It’s not glamourising avalanches or promoting the sole use of an ABS pack without transceiver etc. And quite frankly if you do venture out without the appropriate equipment then you’re nominating yourself for the Darwin Awards. There is so much literature out there as to the equipment needed and how to use it. And maybe sales of backcountry equipment have gone through the roof as the message of not venturing out unprepared gets out. I have no intention of venturing off piste any time soon and yet I’ve educated myself about avalanche awareness and there are many free courses out there. The Boot Lab in Courchevel had a free course if you bought a transceiver and so many resorts have areas to practise your skills. It’s bit of an excessive reaction to a video, if he was skiing in a hoodie and shorts then fair play but he was appropriately equipped and accidents do happen. And you have to ask yourself does this video prompt you to venture out and try an avalanche on for size? No it doesn’t.

  • Eric

    I’m sorry but the message of this vid is that surviving an avalanche is somehow glamorous. Surviving an avalanche is scary because the thought of a real death(yours) is immediate. There is nothing cool about it. Taking a ride down a mountainside on a wave of uncontrolled snow is a big wake up call if you are lucky enough to live. It sucks and I know.
    This guy sets off a MASSIVE SLAB (see how far the crown travels off to his right?) and on exposed, big, rocky terrain. Sure he lived and got back in the heli and wasn’t buried fortunately but if he had tagged any of those rocks going 40-60mph it would be game over if he hit his head (even with that helmet) and striking any rock going that speed can easily result in traumatic life threatening injury. People need to have the independence and freedom to make bad decisions, but this vid makes it look like setting off a ripper with an 18inch deep crown by 50+ yards wide a bit too cavalier.

  • Whitey

    If I had to guess after watching the video twice. It would seem as if it was an ad for the ABS bag. Knowing those conditions and the runout would any one intentionally trigger an avy? Maybe…

  • LJ

    Thanks Matt – I am with you. Something very wrong with this clip – disrespectful comes to mind.

  • Martin B

    Sorry, but lying ON the bag is not what ABS mackes believe in its marketing. “The bag is always staying on surface as it is lighter”.
    Hmm. Believing that I find that the guy should have be turned with body down. How has it been possible to bring the bag down as it is sol ight?

    I would say: He survived in defiance of the bag!

  • HMcGrath

    As someone who skis exclusively in the backcountry, I full-heartedly agree with Matt’s opinion regarding this video. I have watched families, friends, and communities suffer eternally from the tremendous loss of a premature death of a loved one that is caught and killed in an avalanche. Even in the last 2 years, we have observed many more people buying snowmobiles and accessing the depths of the bc that were inaccessible to many before. I know for a fact that many of these people don’t have the avalanche training they need. I choose not to ski with them. This video seems to suggest that anyone can ski anywhere, regardless of the snow conditions, if they only have one piece of equipment – an ABS air bag. Oh, and a helicopter there to pick up their sorry ass when they get caught in an avalanche. Not many of us have the luxury to be saved by a helicopter and have to instead resort to using the one true safety tool that we all have available – our brains. This video shows no mention of assessing the snow pack – only that they dumped their skier onto a very dangerous slope that just received 12 feet of new snow. The ski community needs to support avalanche safety and avoidance, not promote triggering avalanches.

  • Fire

    Continuing to read this thread has got me mad! From reading the comments it’s clear that almost everyone probably already has either good or at least some backcountry awareness (they are reading this article and have bothered to comment afterall).

    My point… we are the people that are STATISTICALLY less likely to get killed. Yet how many thousands of people (just checked nearly a quarter of a million views so far!) will have watched this video that lack that awareness i.e the very people that the industry needs to reach to bring deaths down. The imagery clearly gives the blatant impression that you can ski crazy lines so long as you’ve got an ABS on your pack and that is utter nonsense – if ABS didn’t mean it to look like that, well they f*cked up their editing (and I don’t believe them anyway!)

    It’s the young kids that will watch videos like this and think “hell yeah, I’ve got my ABS on, I’m invincible” that we need to worry about ‘cos the heli crews will be pulling them out cold. And I’m not just a grump and bore… I’ve skied rowdy lines and continue to do so but I manage my risk based on knowledge and ability, not what I wear on my back – that’s just there in case it all goes to sh*t.

  • chim richalds

    uff da. just want to make sure everyone gets some facts straight about this incident, regardless of video editing, brand placement, etc., so that people can learn something from the actual accident, since the author wasn’t interested in doing so. here are the glaring red flags:

    this line was a sketchy series of hanging snowfields with no ridges or islands of safety in case of an avalanche.

    the face is baking in direct sunlight, no cross-shadows to be seen.

    the bottom of the face led into a horrible terrain trap.

    obviously, given the backstory on the weather, the avalanche conditions were not green-light.

    this line was skied under the supervision of a guide company. very irresponsible of the guide company to ever ski this line with anyone ever, no matter what the avalanche conditions were, since it ends in such an insane trap. this guy is super lucky to be alive, airbag or not.

    • chim richalds

      this is the type of line that would get skied a lot if it were easily accessible from a ski area, but as far as heliskiing goes, this should be a total non-run. you should never ski people into a terrain trap, ever. and on this particular run, the trap is so gnarly that just your sluff could bury you in there, never mind a slab avalanche. very bad guiding, and i hope whoever was responsible in this incident learns from this mistake. this run needs to be marked off their map. you have a helicopter, which means you have choices.

  • Cinder Chutes

    It is always the same old line about minimizing the ris,.” We did not expect what happened”. What the hell do you expect, 16 vestal virgins to join you for the ride.The only minimization was the use of your brain cells. Oh yeah, 1 out of 3 chances dying are pretty bad odds in any book. What hell do any of these people know about minimizing the risk from a helicopter or visual site unless you hike up the face you are about to ski and does not give all the facts.

  • oldcrustyskier

    Assumptions, assumptions, assumptions, and more assumptions. From the article to this thread, I see a lot of assumptions with inferred intent. Aymar’s comment has standing and all the arm chair quarterbacks need to take a break and remember their own mistakes. (of course if they’ve ever made one, I know there are all kinds of perfect decision makers out their in backcountry land) Ask themselves about how they would have liked to have it examined with all kinds of lame assumptions brought to the hindsight decision commentary and the skier’s intent. Anyone who has spent enough time in the backcountry to make a couple mistakes in the backcountry knows what it is like to think you have done all your homework, on-slope research, and critical thinking you could leading up to the ski, and still get it wrong. You can even be amongst the most respected instructors/forecasters in the industry and still get it wrong in front of a class of level 2 students by getting caught in a slide during a class field instruction session.(true story) Everyone knows there is a panacea problem with the ABS bags just like there was with beacons, avalungs, and any other life-saving device. Anytime an avalanche shows up on YouTube with any kind of logo in it, the snow gerbils get out on their high horse and start making hindsight assumptions, pointing fingers, and putting things in their “right” and “wrong” boxes like if they were there they could have dug a pit and seen this coming from a mile away. Lofty belief in their own abilities, I wonder if they felt so sure when they made their latest on-slope decision that went otherwise. That is, again, if they’ve ever made a mistake, and if they have ever deviated far enough from the 20 degree trees to have a decision matter. Education is always the key to limiting the probabilities of making a mistaken decision , but it is also not an exact science. Very, very far from it. As displayed by slide stories and even deaths of some of the smartest snowpack gerbils in the industry nearly every single year who spend their whole lives evaluating snowpacks. Another major key is intelligent, moderate, polite, and less assumptive superiority complexes to have honest and open conversations where someone like Aymar doesn’t get attacked like he is some ignorant gaper from Texas who showed up to a huge slope with nothing but bravado and athleticism, and just went for it.

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